Always look on the bright side of life…

I wish I could say that was my motto, but that would be exaggerating.

I will say, though, that I was able to look on the bright side of a really nasty winter day today. Winds of 30 mph, alternately sunny and cloudy – with sideways-blowing snow every. damn. time. I had to be out today. Which was a lot.

On the bright side, today I managed to have coffee meetings close to home at both the beginning and ending of my day. That means moving my commute OUT of rush hour. Made a new friend at the morning coffee and enjoyed deep conversation at the afternoon one. Got home early enough that I had enough energy to make a pot of chili – perfect for this crap weather day.

All that wind and snow combined with an unusual work day made me feel a little edgy. So I’m sharing one of my fave graphics. Enjoy.

d and j

 

Advertisements

Deliberately destroying families: It cuts like a knife.

pexels-photo-568027.jpeg

More days than not recently, when I listen to the news on NPR on my long commute, I burst into tears.

Loss of constitutional rights. Gutting of the environment. Shooting of children, for God’s sake. Ugly words hurled at the same children, who speak up and act to try and stop the shooting.

I suspect I’m not alone.

The story that made me cry this morning shook me to the core. About an immigrant mother and child, taken into custody. The mother is being held in California, the seven-year-old daughter in Chicago. I repeat, seven years old.

The report gave me chills of terror this morning. Writing about it now I’m experiencing that same loss of breath, the same chills. I’m imagining one of my own babies at that age, and what it would have meant to them to be torn away from me. Sent 2,000 miles away. Unfamiliar with the language. Lost and alone. Terrified.

I can’t stand it.

It makes not one tiny scrap of difference to me that this mother and daughter are in the U.S. “illegally.” Whatever situation forced them to come here together can only have been desperate. All I care about is that our federal officials have done this horrific, evil thing. And they’re doing it more and more often – at least 50 immigrant families have been torn apart in this way in the last year. It’s their idea of a good way to keep families from crossing our borders in the first place.

But these are human beings, who love and need each other to survive. Separating a child and her mother is an act of government-sponsored cruelty and torture.

As with every post-mass-shooting scenario (and how repugnant it is that we’re so familiar with those scenarios), thoughts and prayers are not enough. But, beyond writing to elected representatives, I don’t know what else I have to offer.

I despise our nation’s leadership with every fiber of my being.

 

 

 

It takes a child to raise a village.

When our three were in high school, we had their friends in and out of the house daily. The Husband and I volunteered so much in their music and theater programs that we knew their most beloved teachers well and became buddies with their closest classmates.  Those kids were my kids, and I was honored that they liked us and turned to us for love and nurturing. We were the village that helped raise those children.

In the face of yet another horrific mass murder, it is now the Parkland kids who are raising us. 

They’re raising us impotent adults above our defeated, hopeless inaction about the idiocy of gun obsession in our nation.

Raising the conversation so it will be heard.

Raising our consciousness, raising our empathy, raising our morality.

I see these kids’ images and my heart stirs at the anger and resolve and courage on their faces.

I hear their words and I weep openly over their eloquence and their heartfelt demands.

I’ve never met the Parkland kids. I probably never will. But I love each and every one of them, as if they were the part of the crowd that used to hang out at our house for rehearsals, dinners, and laughter and in our van on the many road trips we took for auditions and performances.

These are our kids. We can’t fail them. They need us just as much as we need them.

27864806_15190923830_r

 

We cry out for change.

27972755_10155908900506480_4320772358357664754_n

I don’t ever. EVER. want to hear the phrase “thoughts and prayers” again.

I know I’m not alone in that despairing, yet angry, sentiment.

The thoughts and prayers of our NRA-owned lawmakers aren’t doing a damned thing for the ever-increasing numbers of human beings whose lives are permanently shattered every day by gun violence.

In a day or two the Florida school shooting will fade away, and Americans will collectively forget (with help from our lawmakers who insist “now is not the time” to talk about it) and move on to the next outrage. And then, in a week or so the next shooting will occur and the cycle will start again.

We’re clearly a broken nation. Our government “shuts down” on a regular basis – a glaring symptom of that broken-ness. If lawmakers can’t even manage to keep our institutions running, they definitely can’t tackle a problem as multi-faceted and powder keg-hot as gun violence.

I am convinced there is no one solution to our self-inflicted national shame. Blaming mental illness won’t do it (especially since that’s just a convenient talking point, with no intention of actually helping the mentally ill – who, by the way, are rarely the perpetrators of violence). Turning our schools and offices into heavily armed fortresses won’t do it. More restrictive gun laws alone won’t do it. Increased gun ownership sure as hell won’t do it, though the NRA and gun manufacturers would have you believe otherwise.

All of the commonly discussed (and routinely forgotten) options are technical solutions to one gigantic whopper of an adaptive challenge.

This kind of challenge obviously has no clear-cut answer. It requires listening and learning. It’s the work of many, many concerned people – not just the power-hungry people we elect to do the work of governing. It requires the ability to try new things, act experimentally. It will take a long, long time, in which we’d have to settle for progress rather than a quick fix.

In other words, the cure for our broken nation and its love affair with guns requires wisdom and intense effort on the part of every single citizen.

That prognosis isn’t merely daunting; it feels pretty much impossible. Quite honestly, I don’t think we’re up to the task.

But if I want to manage my own despair, I’ve got to do what I can. That starts with writing every single one of my local and national lawmakers to insist they work for change. Considering that my state has some of the most dangerous gun laws in the nation, that action feels rather futile. But it’s something I am capable of doing.

I have a small amount of disposable income that I can choose to donate to an organization such as Moms Demand Action or Everytown. I’ll contribute, though again it’s a gesture designed more to maintain my mental health than to actually create change.

I ask you, friends, in all sincerity: What will you do? Please share your thoughts.

 

 

When the game isn’t fun.

tetris

Circumstances have recently turned us into a five-car family. I just bought a new car. We hung onto my old car to give to our son and his fiancee – she’s moving in with us beginning this weekend until she gets a job and they find an apartment. Son has his own car. Middle daughter lives at home, so we’ve got her car. And then there’s my husband’s company van.

With an old house and a one-car garage (but, thankfully, with a double driveway),  twice a day now we engage in a really pain-in-the-ass game of Driveway Tetris.

It’s totally a first-world privilege problem, I know. And some part of me actually appreciates this daily annoyance, in that I’m hanging onto these last days of our son living at home. Soon life will change, permanently. That’s going to be difficult…painful, even.

But still, morning and evening every weekday, and sometimes more on the weekends, we have the mad driveway scramble. Who’s leaving first? Can daughter’s tiny car get out around the work van in front of it? I have to run a quick errand – should I take son’s car, or do we all go out and play Tetris?

And then I started adding another color of falling block to the game. My good friend and colleague, Kelly, lives just a few blocks away, and sometimes it makes sense – and it’s always pleasant – for us to do the long-ish commute downtown together.

Here’s what Driveway Tetris looked like this morning:

I knew Husband would be leaving early, and son always leaves for work super early. I planned to drive Kelly and myself to work today. No problem for me to pull my car out of the garage and for Kelly to slip into the driveway.

Except – ALERT! ALERT! – Husband woke up sick. Went right back to bed, practically delirious (his personal version of the “man cold” is a story for another day). No way he could move his van out of my way. What to do, what to do…

Son to the rescue! He wanted to drive my old car to work today, for reasons of his own. He was going to have to do a preliminary Tetris session before the sun even came up, to get my old car out. He’d leave all the colored blocks in a convenient order for when Kelly arrived.

Time for Kelly to show up. Daughter resorted to parking her tiny car in the YARD so Kelly could pull into the driveway without trapping the tiny car.

This particular game wasn’t significantly more difficult than it is every. Single. Day. Twice a day or more.

Once our boy and his fiancee do move out, I’ll probably look back on these days fondly. Really, I will. Every moment with him around is a treasure.

So I’m taking the good with the bad. And Driveway Tetris is really bad.

Hobby? Or avoidance strategy?

mitten

It’s extremely difficult for me not to curl up into a ball of utter despair over what’s happening in our nation. I am convinced by careful perusal of many different news outlets and study of government documents, memos, and testimonies, that the American experiment is near its end.

45 has flirted with constitutional crisis for over a year now. The fact that he signed a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress but is now refusing to enforce the law? Full-blown crisis, friends. What does that law address? An incredibly convoluted scandal involving murder, money laundering, and Russian and U.S oligarchs – a scandal that directly benefits 45 and his billionaire kleptocrat buddies. A tip for those who hadn’t heard: “Russian adoption” – the ostensible topic of the pertinent meeting that took place in 2016 –  is actually code for this scandal, 

This complete dismantling of our constitutional democracy is only one of the many evils being carried out by this poseur of a president. Just a little reminder: The “us” first, anti-immigration, nationalist vitriol spewed by this man and his supporters is exactly what brought about every war across the globe over the last 150 years. 

Tonight is the annual State of the Union Address. I feel compelled to watch, and yet I’m truly afraid it will trigger another crying jag like the one brought on by the November 2016 election. I’m not sure I can do it.

And so, I’m knitting. Handwork has always been a joy for me. Now it’s an escape. A therapeutic, all-absorbing act of pushing down the despair. Before Christmas I turned out 10 scarves that went to guests of my organization’s Christmas Store (in which friends from our urban neighborhood shop for gifts for each member of their family, free of charge). Since Christmas I’ve produced a few more scarves. And as ugly news report piled on top of ugly news report, I craved something more challenging. After several disastrous attempts, I’ve finally mastered a mitten pattern.

When temperatures dip, as they have frequently this winter, we set a box of donated gloves, hats, mittens, and scarves in our waiting room for our neighbors. My goal is to contribute a couple of pairs of mittens to that box each week.

I march. I donate. I write. I post. Yet my influence on the fate of our nation feels negligible.  So I distract myself with tiny efforts on the side of good.

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply,, he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”

“That Would Be Enough.”

IMG_0308

Summer 2017 was big. “Hurricane” big. “Blow Us All Away” big. HAMILTON IN CHICAGO big!

Yes, the whole fam piled into a car and drove north for a long weekend in Chicago to finally sit in the audience for the musical we’d been listening to and singing along with “Non-Stop” for over a year.

My heart started racing the moment the theater sign came into view. Our seats were nearly as high up in the balcony as it was possible to get, but we we were so excited we didn’t even notice all the stairs.

Aaron Burr stepped onto the stage with the words “How does a bastard, orphan, immigrant, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean, by providence impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

And for the next 3 1/2 hours I scarcely breathed. Literally on the edge of my seat, with tears in my eyes at every moment, I took in the movement, the costumes, the  lighting, the rhyme and rhythm, the intensely touching music and instrumentation, the deftness and piercing accuracy of word choice. All this, coupled with the heartbreaking beauty of seeing our U.S. origin story told by people of color; people who have been historically and systematically dis-included from the American dream.

I’m definitely a musical genre buff. But “Hamilton” is much more than a musical. I’m certainly not original in considering it a cultural phenomenon, a perfect expression of the zeitgeist. The line that in every performance makes the audience shout for joy, “Immigrants – we get the job done” are words of defiant healing in the face of dangerous nationalistic sentiment.

It was a life experience that will be forever a touchstone.

The importance of this event was, in part, due to my joy in sharing it with the four people who mean everything to me. Knowing that it meant as much to them as it did to me. Even as my children age and naturally drift further away, this experience underscored that we’re soul mates.

It’s horribly painful to live in these days of the demise of democracy. The genius that is “Hamilton” helps us find the courage to say, “Look around, look around…at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

hamilton

 

Still Mom.

When I first chose a title for this blog, it struck me that “Mom Goes On” worked in more than one way. At the time, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself as two of my three flew the nest. Then, too, I was discovering that the “mom life” does’t end just because the kids are turning into adults.

Here we are more than four years later, and I’m still finding it true: My “mom life” is still a bit part of what I do and who I am.

A bit of a family update (or news flash, if you’re a new reader finding your way here):

Oldest is nearing the completion of her doctorate. By the end of this year she’ll be taking her next step, probably post-doc work – we just don’t know where yet. But it’s looking more and more likely she’ll try to settle in the Chicago area, with her boyfriend (and soon to be fiance, we expect.) Happy, healthy, and successful. No small accomplishment for a young woman in science research, which is notoriously unfriendly to females. I’m thrilled to report that she and I still text daily. Sometimes because she actually needs her mama, and more often because we have something funny to share. There’s nothing like truly liking your own children.

The middle sister still lives at home, and I hope she never leaves. She’s an awesome housemate, and great fun to hang out with. After teaching in an urban middle school for over a year, she realized quite unexpectedly that she’d made a serious mistake in her career choice. And made the very brave decision to stop teaching. It’s no easy thing to work your ass off for a goal (she graduated summa cum laude with a double major of education and English), only to discover it’s entirely wrong for you. It was a traumatic time in our household when all that came down, I can tell you. Every mom skill I ever possessed came into play in order to talk her down from that metaphorical ledge and help her move on.

Youngest is at home, too, for his first year of teaching. Choral music conducting jobs were in short supply last spring, so he settled for another of his loves and is teaching high school physics for now. Bigger news: He became engaged over Christmas break, and is starting an apartment search – he and his fiancee will live together for a year or so before the wedding. It’s lovely, though a huge surprise that the youngest is the first to take that leap It’s funny how this kid operates. He’s a closed book most of the time, but then he’ll suddenly pose a serious question whose answer has major consequences, and want my opinion and advice. I’ve loved having him back with us for a short time before he leaves the nest entirely for a new life with his love. And that brings another one into the fold, a young woman who, IMHO, could use some supportive parenting.

I’ll never stop missing the days when they were all at home and we were one cohesive unit. But there are many joys to this stage of life; not the least of which is knowing that we all still care about and take care of each other.

The mom life is still good.

 

 

Adventures in housecleaning.

Shopping basket with detergent bottles isolated on white

Confession: my own cleaning supplies are not this attractive and neatly arranged.

I am, by default, the main cleaner in our household.

The Husband doesn’t notice dirt OR clutter. When The Boy is home, he has the same blind eye (though, oddly, I’ve noticed he keeps his dorm bedroom and bathroom spotless. Hmmmm…) Middle regularly assists with everyday kitchen cleanup, but she’s so preoccupied by her first year of teaching that a clean, tidy environment isn’t at the top of her list.

I, on the other hand, am pathologically averse to clutter and go around tidying and putting things away every moment I’m home. Historically the actual cleaning bit has never been as important to me – until November 9, when our nation became so filthy and disgusting that I became compulsive about keeping my own, safe nest immaculate. Not joking.

So…today as I worked through my Saturday task list, I came across a couple of fascinating (?) details:

img_1963

It’s a complete mystery to me how “low” can be a lower setting than “bare,” which means, presumably, “bare floor.” Is this a setting for vacuuming in a trench? Who’s doing that?

No photo for this one, and you’ll thank me:

I’d like to hand it to whatever male in our household is capable of creating pee stains clear away from the toilet, next to the baseboard. And by “it” I mean a package of antibacterial surface wipes.

Thank goodness I’m done with my compulsive cleaning for the day.